Recently, I was speaking with someone about one of my trips who said he would never stay in an Airbnb like I did. He only stays in Marriott hotels. Calmly I said, "It's nice that you can afford to do that." "Well," he shot back, "I've worked hard for my money!" Hmm... Was he being defensive or was he implying something about me?
I often wonder what people think I do as an artist. When someone seems offended by the cost of a painting, do they imagine me whipping it off in an hour and then spending the rest of my day walking through gardens with a faraway look in my eyes? I wish that were true! When I had what some might consider a "real" job, I had plenty of time for walking through gardens. Since deciding to be a full-time artist a year and a half ago I've been working at least 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, and often doing things I've never done before that are way outside of my comfort zone. I'm not painting that entire time. My art is my business, so I have to do all the tasks that any other business does:
Buy painting supplies (online or go to a store)
Take reference photos or sort through previous photos
Photograph finished pieces
Document painting info in inventory catalog
Update website with new pieces & remove sold ones
Update inventory catalog with customer info after sales
Take a class to improve painting or business skills
Create social media posts
Write a blog post or create a newsletter (or both)
Attend networking events
Meet with potential business partners
Create printed materials (business cards, postcards, etc.)
Create, rework, or update website look and capabilities
Analyze website & social media stats
Research new ways to advertise
Research opportunities for showing work
Submit work to shows & galleries
Set up and be present for fairs, receptions, & open studios
Meet with potential customers
Deliver finished paintings to customers
Deliver paintings to current art reps
Create & send invoices
I don't do every single one of these things every day, but I do almost all of them within the course of every week. And they all require time and effort, to a greater or lesser degree depending on the task and how much of my Self I have to put into it.
Tasks aside, painting itself requires a lot of time and effort. There have been a few instances when a painting has sprung fully formed from my mind onto the canvas, but only a few. Typically they take many hours - especially for commissioned portraits when it's critical to get not only the physical likeness of an animal but also exude its unique personality. That's why custom work costs a little more, though I try to make it more affordable by offering occasional sales, layaway, and discounts for repeat customers.
But the truth is that the value of a piece art to the person buying it can't be measured by mere dollars anyway. They're not buying labor or materials, they're buying the intangible feeling the art gives them: joy, memory, hope, beauty, or fulfillment. That's the artist's job - to make the intangible real. And if that's not a real job, I honestly don't know what is.
PS - Someday I expect my bank account will reflect my efforts but either way I'll still stay in Airbnb's.
Connect with and follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn where you can see the freshest updates on art, writing and our adventures in life. Also, take a look at my painting collections here. And don't forget to sign up for my newsletter so you don't miss a thing!